‘I TRUST TRANSGENDER FEMALE MICROCELEBRITIES’: FROM BUILDING A NEW BODY TO BECOME AN INSPIRING IDOL
Much global attention is given to Bangkok as the “Mecca of transsexual body modification” (Aizura, 2010, p. 2) for both Thai and non-Thai transgender women. Clearly, it has garnered an international reputation as “being culturally tolerant of gender variance” (p. 16), in particular, for transgendered women or ladyboys. However, they are still considered marginalized in Thai society and are not well-accepted for many Thais. Since the rise of networked technology, some Thai transgender women have lived online, formed likeminded-groups, and shared support. This paper argues that their blogs serve as counter-publics for the unheard voices to be publicly visible. At the intersection of technology, identity and online participation literatures, this research extends microcelebrity literature and borrows second-wave feminist value, “personal is political” to examine transgender women beauty bloggers and their blogs and understand how (their) personal is political. For this project, I had in-depth interviews with seven transgender women beauty bloggers in Thailand, taken in 2-hour period each during December 2016 and February 2017. Findings show that, Thai transgender female beauty blogs serve as “social-conscience-style activis[t]” (Vromen, 2006) who build their own bodies, friend their fans (regardless of how many followers they have accumulated), and become inspiring idols. The blogs lend themselves to serve as informational and emotional support to their followers, especially transgendered followers. Bloggers enact micro-political actions to be seen online and empower the marginalized, thus, become a trustworthy source.